Pitfalls in Maintenance Calculations and the Importance of Accurate Income and Expense Statements

June 29th, 2021

Pitfalls in Maintenance Calculations and the Importance of Accurate Income and Expense Statements

By: Andy Scholz, Heather Rooney McBride, and Lauren Marsh

Errors in documents pertaining to maintenance payments may be costly. Maintenance, otherwise known as alimony, is a payment from one spouse to another following the dissolution of marriage. In Missouri, maintenance (alimony) may only be awarded if the spouse requesting maintenance can show they lack sufficient property to reasonably provide for their needs, and that they are unable to support themselves through appropriate employment. RSMo 452.335. The court must then determine if the potentially paying spouse has the ability to meet the needs of the opposing party while also attending to his or her own reasonable needs. To calculate the amount of maintenance a spouse is to receive, one of the most important documents is an “Income and Expense Statement.” This document shows the cash flow of each litigant and is essential for proof of reasonable need and ability to pay.

Often, spouses seeking maintenance fail to properly record their expenses in their Income and Expense Statements. Any court judgments based on these improper calculations should be reversed because the mistakes are proof the maintenance award was not based on evidence of reasonable need. One common error is that the requesting spouses often do not account for co-habitant expenses. Additionally, spouses requesting maintenance often mistakenly duplicate expenses. If an appellate court determines that even one dollar of a maintenance award was due to these mistakes, the entire award of maintenance is rendered null and void.

Davis v. Davis, 613 S.W.3d 414 (Mo. Ct. App. 2020) illustrates these common mistakes when requesting maintenance in Missouri. Here, the wife seeking alimony listed the expense of monthly credit card payments in the debt payment category. She also included expenses in the categories of food, gasoline, and utilities. At trial, she testified that she used her credit card to purchase food, gasoline and utilities, but she was also cohabitating with two other people and failed to account for the two cohabitators’ share of the expenses. The wife should have subtracted the two cohabitators’ share of the expenses from her calculation of expenses. This can be difficult when dividing expenses such as housing or utilities. However, the requesting spouse must identify these potential issues and should be prepared to testify about how his or her expense calculations were made to avoid these mistakes.

While minor, calculation mistakes on Income and Expense Statements can be very detrimental. In Davis, the court reversed and remanded the case to determine the appropriate maintenance obligation, taking the cohabitators’ expenses into consideration. This essentially required a “do-over” of the time and expense that had been incurred in the first trial. But even if a case is not overturned on appeal, mistakes on an Income and Expenses statement may cause the maintenance to be lower than anticipated, or maintenance payments may not be awarded at all when the lower expenses demonstrate the lack of a reasonable need. When a spouse has an expectation of receiving maintenance and a mistake is made, an appellate reversal can be devastating.

Save the time, money, and energy of an error in maintenance calculations by ensuring that the Income and Expense statement is completed accurately at the start. If you would like to speak with an attorney about divorce, alimony payments, or your options regarding any domestic matter, please contact Rooney McBride & Smith, LLC at 417-708-9681 to schedule a free consultation.